Living Legacy: Rav Akiva Sofer of Pápa
The seventh day of Chanukah marks the yohrtzeit of Rav Akiva Sofer, the son of Rav Shimon of Krakow, author of Michtav Sofer, the son of the great Chasam Sofer. His mother was Rebbetzin Miriam, the daughter of Rav Dov Ber Sternberg of Kruli.
He was born in Pressburg on the 20th of Elul of the year 1839, and he merited for his saintly grandfather to serve as his sandak and mohel on the 27th of Elul—as is transcribed in the diary of the Chasam Sofer. It was the last bris that the Chasam Sofer attended before his petirah one month later, on 25 Tishrei, 1839.
He was a tremendous ga’on and masmid, and was incredibly brilliant. He had the ability to draw the hearts and minds of his listeners close to Torah through his brilliant delivery.
The ga’on was a wealthy man, and could have lived a life of luxury. However, for himself he was satisfied with very little in the way of earthly pleasures, while for others, he gave with an open hand, much of it in a hidden way. It is said that following his passing, his diary was discovered, along with the exorbitant amounts that he gave to others—many of them talmidei chachomim who were able to sit and learn thanks to his largesse.
His primary rebbi was his own father, the Michtav Sofer, as well as his uncle, Rav Avrohom Shmuel Binyomin Sofer, the K’sav Sofer.
In 1860, he married Rebbetzin Leah, the daughter of the philanthropist, Reb Chaim Zev Wolf Halevi of Pápa, and the couple settled there—remaining there for all their lives. Not wanting to support himself from a rabbinic position, he engaged in business… learning every possible moment. And when the business was successful, he hired others to lead the business, spending days and nights engaged in Torah learning. He was a major marbitz Torah in the town, learning with talmidei chachomim and simple people alike.
In the forty years that he served as a leader in the town, he did much to bolster Yiddishkeit there. He founded a va’ad hakashrus, and was involved in all issues of observance in the town. Unlike many towns throughout Hungary, the kehillah in Pápa remained unified under his leadership, with no breakoff from less observant elements.
He was exceedingly humble, and despite his wealth and importance, he shunned any kind of fame or recognition. He authored the sefer Tzuf Devash.
He was interred in the old Beis Hachaim in the town of Pápa, and left behind illustrious children at the time of his passing in 1904.